It’s always amazing when the world of entertainment and the world of sports collide.
When Green Beret, John Wayne Walding attends his first NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July, he’ll see a familiar name plastered around the historic race track – his own.
Walding was announced the winner of Crown Royal’s annual “Your Hero’s Name Here” program, which awards naming rights to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at IMS to a deserving American hero, during last week’s live broadcast of the CMT Music Awards. As the winner, Walding’s name will be incorporated into the official race title, the Crown Royal Presents the John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard Powered by BigMachineRecords.com.
Walding, of Little Elm, Texas, is a highly decorated Army veteran who served for 12 years, completing tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. While overseas in 2008, Walding was involved in a fire fight during a mission to capture a high value target, during which he lost the lower part of his right leg.
After recovering from his injury, Walding was the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper School. He completed the Army 10 miler on foot and the 2009 Boston Marathon utilizing a hand cycle, within a year of the accident. Among Walding’s many awards and badges are the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Combat Infantry Badge. Walding was nominated for the program by his brother and lives in Little Elm with his wife Amy and their four children. He is the founder of Five Toes Custom, which employs wounded veterans in an effort to provide support and direction within their lives.
“The fact that Crown Royal cares enough to say ‘thank you’ for what I’ve done is a true validation for my sacrifice,” said Walding following the unveil event. “The magnitude of those two words goes above and beyond.”
On hand to take part in the program’s winner reveal event for the third year in a row was country music star and reigning ACM New Artist of the Year Justin Moore. Moore presented Walding with a custom-made Gibson guitar bearing the official race logo incorporating Walding’s name and thanked him for his service during the award show broadcast.
“To be able to be involved in this program’s winner reveal event for the third year in a row is really special to me,” said Moore. “We’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing heroes over the years and are looking forward to honoring John Wayne at the Brickyard this summer.”
Walding was joined in Nashville by the other four program finalists, Tara Hulett of Albany, N.Y.; James Bailey of Pamplin, Va.; Bryce Boyer of Wanship, Utah; and Tyler Whisenhunt of Gentry, Ark. The five finalists were selected from thousands of nominations submitted to CrownRoyalHeroes.com, and consumers 21+ voted for the hero they thought was most deserving of the honor.
“The sacrifices that have been made by John Wayne Walding and countless heroes across the country serve as an inspiration to all of us at Crown Royal,” said Abby Wise, Brand Director for Crown Royal. “We’re excited to provide Walding a small token of our gratitude by renaming the NASCAR race at the famed Brickyard in his honor.”
As part of the grand-prize package, Walding will take part in a VIP at-track experience that will include garage tours, pace car rides and concerts by Big Machine Label Group artists. He’ll cap off the weekend by delivering the trophy bearing his name to the race winner in Victory Lane.
“We’re proud to participate in Crown Royal ‘Your Hero’s Name Here’ program for the third consecutive year,” said J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. “It’s been an honor to welcome so many great American heroes to our events and we’re anxious to host John Wayne for a great weekend of racing.”
I have attended this race for the last two years and had the opportunity to meet and spend time with the namesakes of each race and their family, and it is such a rewarding opportunity as a journalist. The things that these individuals do day-in and out have nothing on the simple things that we do or obstacles that we face. If you get an opportunity check out the stories of past winner and keep track of this year’s honoree, I promise you will be humbled and amazed.
While raising a glass to the heroes in your life, Crown Royal and Jersey Girl Sports reminds consumers to please drink responsibly.
Your Jersey Girl,